The UK’s Department of Transport (DfT) has selected a 172 transport providers operating in the country to begin a ten-year trial into the use of longer semi trailers, including those providing services to the automotive industry.

Carried out by the DfT’s Freight and Logistics Division, the study has been commissioned to examine the feasibility and impacts of allowing longer semi-trailers to operate within the British road haulage market. The primary objective is to establish whether their introduction will deliver overall economic, environmental and communal benefits.

The current UK maximum semi-trailer length is 13.6 metres but the trial will involve the use of up to 900 trailers at an increased length of 2.05 metres (15.65m), and a further 900 at an increase of one metre (14.6m). The longer trailers will operate within the existing weight limit because the UK Government is not permitting any increase in the current maximum gross vehicle weight of 44 tonnes. It has also ruled out the introduction of gigaliners – truck combinations of 25 metres and above.

Among the logistics providers serving the automotive industry are Acumen Distribution, Ceva Logistics, DHL UK and Yusen Logistics.

Acumen Distribution has been allocated four 15.6 metre trailers, which it is trialling in partnership with Johnson Controls Automotive to help reduce CO2 emissions.

According to Acumen the 15% increase in volume carried by each longer semi-trailer has enabled Acumen to run three less trips per week on behalf of Johnson Controls Automotive on a regular Midlands – North East – Midlands round trip. The journey savings amount to 63,000 road miles per annum said the company.

“We have been focusing on our environmental policy for a number of years and have attained ISO 19001 and ISO14001 accreditation,” said Chris Doughty, Acumen Distribution’s managing director. “Being chosen as part of these trials has enabled us to take our environmental aspirations one step further.”

Meanwhile, DHL UK is employing 71 of 14.6m trailers and 13 of the 15.65m trailers.

“DHL has a number of longer semi trailers about to enter service across all of its sectors,” a spokesperson for the company told Automotive Logistics News. “Over the coming months we expect to use our full allocation across both of the new sizes, with the automotive sector featuring significantly. DHL recognises that there are significant benefits to the new trailers and will be deploying them in multiple formats and temperatures."

The trial is expected to provide a £33m ($53m) boost to the haulage industry as the longer vehicles provide up to 13% more loading space – allowing fewer journeys to transport the same amount of goods – without compromising safety according to the DfT.

“The road haulage industry is vital to the growth of our economy. By allowing companies to use one truck where they may have previously needed to send two, we can help the sector improve efficiency and save money – which should in turn benefit consumers,” said Roads minister Mike Penning when the trails were initially announced in October last year.

Further information on the scope of the trial can be found here